Warts and All: Intro

Chmee2/Valtameri / CC BY ()

Lets say your goal is to change careers into software engineering. That was what I did at age 30. In her book Nine things successful people do differently Hiedi Halvorson says that maintaining motivation in the face of goal takes Knowing How Far You Have Left to Go. Said another way, having a map (or at least my map) lets you understand what the trip might be like and prepare.

I want to share a “warts and all” account of what it took for me. I'm writing this series of post to lend an honest and direct voice to the “everybody should learn to code and change their life” conversation. I am completely glad that I have this career and I wouldn't change the journey at all. But I would be lying if I said it was easy. Yes, there was a ton of technical stuff to learn; but for me the primary struggles were often outside of code - my emotions, my family life, my finances, my energy. That's what I'm going to cover in these few posts; I'll especially be focussing on two themes: mindset and learning.

Today, I'll just give you a quick picture of where I am in 2020: I got my first software job in 2015. Today, I work for VMware, a large cloud computing company. I joined the company via the acquisition of Pivotal, where I worked for 2 years, primarily as a contributor to the Cloud Foundry project. The team I'm on right now is solely dedicated to contributing to an OSS project: Cloud Native Buildpacks (buildpacks.io).

I get paid to work on open source all day, I earn a living where I'm able to save a small bit and don't fear that an unexpected medical bill or car repair would bankrupt me. I'm married and have a kid; my work allows me to support a family. I have decent benefits and I have a high degree of flexibility in my work day. I work in a growing field and receive daily messages fom people trying to hire me (I'm not special, that just the reality of being a few years into a tech career). I don't work at google or amazon or facebook or have tons of money from my cool startup getting boughts or and I don't get to travel the world to exotic locales while working or live on mushroom coffee (or whatever you'd think “stupid money” would get you) but in many ways I'm “living the dream”.

And you'll notice that I didn't talk about sexy/cool tech or “changing the world”. That whole dialog is not really my thing (no judgments if its yours). I work in tech because its a solid career, I have choices, I enjoy the work day-to-day, and because it lets me support my family; I'm proud of that and I think those reasons alone are good reasons why a tech job is something to shoot for.

It isn't my intention to convince you this is the right move; understand that it will be uphill. And the uphill struggle never really goes away, because technology relentlessly marches forward. However embracing the mindset that nothing worth doing is ever easy, among other shifts in attitude, made a monumental difference in my journey.

I’ll be writing more here and on twitter, where you can follow me for more.